By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
Mike Rozier, the former Nebraska great and 1983 Heisman Trophy winner, recently took time to do an interview with The Capital Sports Report during the recent The College of New Jersey Lions’ Homecoming game. His Q & A feature interview is about his playing career.
TCSR: You went to the NFL while Milt and DaJuan Wagner, father-and-son, went to the National Basketball Association from Camden. What advice would you have for the youths in Camden and other areas in the State to reach for their goals and not get involved in crimes?
MR: “There’s three things that I mention to kids when I talk to them — Faith, Family, and Friends. You have to choose the right faith, not just the right faith, but a faith in something. I believe in God. Some people believe in the Virgin Mary, some people believe in Jehovah Witness. So, you have to have faith. I don’t care if it’s a stick, believe in it. The second half is family, family should be very important to everybody, not just kids, adults, too. Family to me is very important. And thirdly, I have to have friends.
You have to chose the right friends to hang out with, because if you’re doing drugs and I’m hanging out with you and you’re my friend, everybody’s going to think that I’m doing drugs, because I’m hanging with you. You have to pick the right friends to hang out with. That’s the three F’s that I would tell kids today. And get outside and stop going on the Internet or playing Nintendo, stuff like that. When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to get outside. Kids don’t want to go outside these days, because they want to be on the Internet or Nintendo. Go outside and enjoy yourself, as a kid.”
TCSR: Frank Solich, the current Ohio head football coach, is a keen observer of high school films, which is how he found you, because he was recruiting two Pennsauken High School wide receivers at the time he found you at Woodrow Wilson High School. Could you talk about Solich as a recruiter? And also, could you talk about playing for Coach Tom Osborne?
MR: “I call him ‘Franky G’. It’s Coach Solich, but I call him ‘Franky G.’ He’s a hell of a man. He’s like apart of my family, besides being my coach. He’s a great inspiration to me, as far as growing up and being a man at Nebraska, being away from my parents. Coach Solich, Coach Osborne are great coaches and are great people, too. They kept me out of trouble and kept me doing the right things. They kept me in school. I love both of them to death.”
TCSR: You attended Coffeyville Junior college to get your grades up before you went to Nebraska. And you helped that team to an undefeated season at 9-0. Could you talk about helping them to the undefeated season?
MR: “That was my first-time being away from home. I took the Greyhound bus for two-days to get to Coffeyville, Kansas. The reason why I went to Coffeyville, Kansas is because my mom crossed the pick-it line my senior year and a teacher got mad, because my mom crossed the pick-it line. I could have gone anywhere else in the country in terms of school-wise, but Coach Osborne recommended Coffeyville, Kansas to me. All the rest of the schools did not do that. I felt that he treated me as a person and not as a football player. That’s one of the reasons why I went to Nebraska.”
TCSR: After going to Coffeyville Junior college, you went on to play for Nebraska. You challenged Roger Craig for the starting job, before eventually winning the position. Could you talk about beating him for the starting position?
MR: “I wouldn’t call it challenging Roger Craig. Roger was there before I was. Roger and I are still great friends to this day. Unfortunately, Coach Osborne thought I would do a little better job than Roger in the I-Back position. They moved Roger to fullback and I was the I-Back, so we were both on the field at the same time. It worked out alright.”
TCSR: You were able to break Bobby Reynolds’ long-standing school record with 1,689 yards in a season. What did breaking that record mean to you?
MR: “It didn’t mean anything to me really. I wasn’t trying to break the record. My main thing was playing football and having fun and winning ball games for my teammates. So, as far as the record, it just came about. I was there at the right time and I broke it.”
TCSR: During the year that you broke that record, your team had only one loss in the season to Penn State, who is coached by Joe Paterno. Why do you think he’s still coaching at such an old age?
MR: “Joe Paterno loves football. Some guys don’t have anything else but football. Coach Paterno, I know him very well and he’s a nice man. He’s been at Penn State for a very long time, so basically, he still has it even though everybody wants him to retire. You have to understand that he’s been doing it all his life and maybe that’s all he knows.”
TCSR: In 1982, you were named an All-America. Could you talk about being an All-American that year?
MR: “We had a great team. If it wasn’t for my teammates, my lineman, and the coaches that put me in the position to become an All-American that year, I would have never accomplished that.”
TCSR: You were selected as the 1983 Heisman Trophy winner, and I don’t know who you beat for the award, because I was only two-months-old at that time. Could you talk about being selected to go to New York for that Award? And what does that Award mean to you?
MR: “That was another team award. If it wasn’t for my line, my coaching staff, I wasn’t trying to win the Heisman, it just came about. That year I won the Heisman, I only missed one game and we won the Orange Bowl against Louisiana State. I had great blocking and great teammates. It means a lot to me, but it means more so to my parents to see them smile and to see me get awards like that.”
TCSR: As a Heisman Trophy winner, you get to vote for the Heisman Trophy winner each year and get to travel to New York to see the award presented to the new winner. Did you vote for Florida sophomore quarterback Tim Tebow last year? And what did you think about his season last year?
MR: “Tim Tebow, the quarterback, he’s a great quarterback. To me, he’s like a big running back, besides a great quarterback. He was the general of the team and he did a good job. He deserved the Heisman. He’s a good athlete. Besides a good football player, he’s a good person and the same with his family. I met his mom and his dad and his brothers at the Heisman Trophy ceremony last year. They’re great people.”
TCSR: Tebow’s struggling this year compared to his unbelievable season last year. Do you think there will ever be a player to win two straight Heisman Trophy’s like Archie Griffin, or two Heisman Trophy’s in three-years?
MR: “I don’t think that will ever happen again in history, as far as Heisman winners. Archie won it twice and I don’t think that will happen again to anybody. So, I think they’ll shut that down.”
TCSR: You played in the USFL and so did ESPN College Football Analyst Doug Flutie. Did you ever meet him during your years in the league?
MR: “I know Doug very well. He comes to the Heisman (each year), because he won the Heisman, too. Doug won it after me at Boston College. I played USFL ball with Doug and even played in the National Football League with Doug. I call Doug the Partridge family, the older brother in the Partridge Family. That’s why he reminds me of.”
TCSR: Why do you think that league (USFL) did not work out?
MR: “Too much money, too fast. There was a lot of young players in the league, who wanted to showcase their talents. Again, it was too much money too fast.”
TCSR: Could you talk about your first-round, 2nd-overall selection, in the NFL Draft?
MR: “That year, I would have been first, but I chose to go to the USFL. Irving Fryar, a buddy of mine, who I grew up with, was in the first-round that year and decided not to go to the USFL. It didn’t make any difference to me if I was taken 1st overall or if I was taken second overall. As long as I’m playing football, it’s all the same.”
TCSR: You played for the Houston Oilers and the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL. Could you talk about playing in the NFL with all the recognition that comes with it?
MR: “Well, I mean, you’re on TV every day, but football is football. That’s why I had no problems going to the USFL. I knew sooner or later, I would play in the NFL. When the USFL folded, the Houston Oilers had my rights, so I knew I had to go there. It was the same kind of league as the NFL. But football is football. If you don’t enjoy it, you shouldn’t be out there. I enjoyed playing ball, I don’t care what league I played for or for what team I played for. I did the best job I could.”
TCSR: You were inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006, so you went into the Hall in 2007 with Bobby Bowden, Paterno, among others. What did it mean to be in that class with such greats like them?
MR: “It wasn’t just them. It was Coach Bobby Bowden, Emmitt Smith, Bruce Smith, a bunch of great athletes in my class. Carl Eller from the Minnesota Vikings was also in the class. It wasn’t just those guys, it felt good to get another award and be inducted into the College Hall of Fame. Like I said earlier, to see my parents face — to see them smile seeing me get these awards when I’m still alive and they’re still alive — that means more so to me than anything else.”
TCSR: What are you doing these days? Are you still involved in football in some way?
MR: “I really don’t watch football. I am kind of involved in it, as I do autograph signings, speaking engagements, and a lot of charity golf outings.”